Father’s Message – May 2019

Dear Parishioners,

Christ is Risen!

            Our Sunday morning obligation does not involve simply “going to Church.” It means that we “attend the Divine Liturgy.” It is not merely a matter of being present at another Church service.

            The Divine Liturgy is not just the Sunday service. It is more than a prayer service. It is a sacramental participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are present at the Liturgy we are offered the blessings and gifts of God’s Love that flow from Christ’s sacrifice of Calvary. We find ourselves at the Holy Communion service at which the gifts of bread and wine are consecrated upon the altar and offered up, as the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, for the remission of our sins and for everlasting life. It is the Lord’s Supper at which we are invited to participate and to receive of the living Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Consequently, the Divine Liturgy is a service of redemption. It is the chief act of worship and adoration in the Orthodox Church. When it is celebrated we do not pray as individuals. It is the body of believers which offers up the sacrifice in the person of the Priest. It is corporate worship. The Church – the Body of Christ – unites before the throne of Divine Majesty in a renewed identity with her Divine Head. The Church Triumphant consisting of the departed souls joins with the Church Militant on earth in one Body of the redeemed faithful.

            Christ instituted this Holy Sacrament in the evening of Holy Thursday, the night before He died, when He and the twelve Apostles were assembled at the last supper. On this occasion He took dread, blessed and broke it, saying: “Take, eat. This is my body.” Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to the Apostles, saying: “Drink of this, all of you; This is my blood of the new covenant Which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this for a commemoration of me.”

The Priests, as successors of the Apostles, were given power by Christ to re-enact this holy act and to change bread into His Body and wine into His Blood. In the person of the Priest, Christ again is with us inviting us to the mystic feast of redemption and immortality. “When you see the Lord sacrificed and laid upon the Altar,” St. John Chrysostom writes, “and the Priest standing and praying over the victim and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious Blood, can you then think that you are still among men and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven?”

            By exercising his sacred office, the Priest perpetuates Christ’s function as a mediator between man and God. At the sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy the Priest approaches God as the representative of the people. He intercedes for them. There at the Altar where Heaven and earth do meet he lifts up his hands to God and prays for the forgiveness of our sins. To have one’s name “remembered” at the Divine Liturgy, whether of the living or departed, is a blessing of worth. “Pray for me, Father,” is a frequent request of a good Orthodox Christian. 

            To be spiritually united with the Priest at worship is to be assured of receiving God’s grace into our hearts. On the other hand, to be alienated from him by impure words or thoughts that dishonor him is to forfeit the blessings that flow from the Altar. It is to exclude ourselves from the Sanctuary which is the source of our redemption. “He who is within the Sanctuary is pure,” notes St. Ignatius of Antioch, “but he who is without the Sanctuary is not pure; that is to say, whoever acts in disregard to the Bishop and the Priests and the Deacons is not pure in his conscience.”

            The Holy of Holies is the Sanctuary which is set off from the Nave of the Church by the Iconostasis. Into this most sacred part of the Church only the Priest is allowed to enter and the few acolytes that assist him. Such is the holiness of the Sanctuary that the Iconostasis was placed there in order that we might not even cast our glance on what is Holiest, least of all, step foot into this most sacred part of the temple of worship. 

            The Priest alone is permitted to enter into the Sanctuary, because there the sacrifice of Christ is offered from his own hands. God places him there for the purpose of making the grace of redemption accessible to men. It is enough to behold the Priest standing before the Holy Altar to sense the incomprehensibly lofty and sublime power and dignity of the Priesthood.

            In front of the Holy Table is the consecrator of the bread and the wine. Endowed with divine power at his ordination, he changes these earthly elements into the very precious Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, while the choir is intoning: “We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You Lord, our God.” His priestly lips tremble with awe as he invokes the Holy Spirit: “And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ and that which is in this Cup the precious Blood of Your Christ, changing them by Your Holy Spirit.”

With love in Christ,

Father Anargyros

Αγαπητοί μου Χριστιανοί,

«Χριστός Ανέστη»

Η Κυριακή είναι ημέρα που ευλόγησε ο Θεός και η Εκκλησία με στοργή, μας υπενθυμίζει ότι την ημέρα αυτή πρέπει να την αφιερώνουμε στην προσευχή και τη λατρεία του αγίου Θεού, στους ιερούς μας Ναούς.

Μέσα στους ιερούς αυτούς χώρους, οι προσευχές, οι ύμνοι, οι δοξολογίες, το διάβασμα και η εξήγηση των Αγίων Γραφών, μας βοηθούν ψυχικά και μας διδάσκουν για τον αληθινό προορισμό μας σε τούτη τη ζωή. Στον ιερό Ναό, παίρνουμε δύναμη και θάρρος στις θλίψεις μας και τα βάσανά μας, υψώνοντας τα μάτια μας σε θερμή προσευχή στον Κύριο. Οι ιερές Εικόνες, μας θυμίζουν τη ζωή των αγίων αυτών προσώπων και προσευχητικά παρακαλούμε τον Θεό να μας αξιώσει να ακολουθήσουμε το παράδειγμά τους, παράδειγμα αφοσιώσεως και υπακοής στο θέλημα και τις εντολές του Θεού. Το δε θυμίαμα, μας φέρνει νοερά στον ουράνιο θρόνο, στο ουράνιο θυσιαστήριο, στη θριαμβεύουσα Εκκλησία, μπροστά στον Θεό. Όλα που γίνονται στον ιερό Ναό, μας φέρνουν πιο κοντά τον έναν προς τον άλλον, αδέρφια Χριστού, μια οικογένεια μεγάλη, λατρεύοντες τον ουράνιο Πατέρα μας. 

Να ερχόμαστε στους ιερούς μας Ναούς, ντυμένοι σεμνά, ενθυμούμενοι κάθε στιγμή, ότι ο ιερός Ναός δεν είναι αίθουσα για γενικές συνελεύσεις, για θέατρο για χορό και κουβέντα, αλλά τόπος προσευχής, εξομολογήσεως και δακρύων.

«Ο τόπος τούτος είναι φοβερός, είναι το Σπίτι του Θεού και η θύρα του ουρανού» (Γέν. 28,17). Με αυτή τη σκέψη να μπαίνουμε στις εκκλησίες μας και να προσευχώμεθα με ευλάβεια, με συντριβή ψυχής, με δάκρυα στα μάτια, με ιερή και άγια συμπεριφορά και διαγωγή.

Κάθε φορά που τελείται η Θεία Λειτουργία, ακούμε αυτά τα λόγια: «Ας παρακαλέσουμε τον Κύριο για τούτο το Σπίτι, τον ιερό Ναό και για κείνους που έρχονται να εκκλησιασθούν με πίστη, με φόβο Θεού, με ευλάβεια. Γι’αυτούς εύχεται και προσεύχεται ο κληρικός».

Αγαπητοί μου, μην προσπαθούμε να βρούμε δικαιολογίες, ότι ο Θεός είναι παντού, και είναι, και εκεί μπορούμε να ανοίξουμε την καρδιά μας σε προσευχή. Ελάτε στο Σπίτι Του. Μέσα εκεί θα μεγαλώσει η ευσέβειά μας και θα πλησιάσουμε τον Χριστό μας με πιο καθαρή συνείδηση και ψυχή. Ελάτε, ακολουθήστε το παράδειγμα τόσων άλλων που εκκλησιάζονται τακτικά, στην ώρα τους και με την οικογένειά τους.

Με αγάπη Χριστού,

Πατήρ Ανάργυρος